Tales from Makasa Farm, Makueni
By Chris Lati
Listen to me my dear farmers. Excellent rearing of replacement heifers between six months to calving is a great future investment. From my experience, farmers tend to neglect heifers at this stage and feed them poorly resulting in a cow that will never reach its full milk producing potential.
A poorly fed heifer ends up with stunted growth and an underdeveloped udder, hence ultimately producing less milk at first calving – 10 to 12 litres instead of 25 to 30 litres depending on the breed.
Due to poor methods of rearing heifers it has now become increasing difficulty to source for quality and high producing heifers from small scale dairy farms. Recently, I had to go all the way to as far away areas such as Eldoret, Kilifi and Nakuru counties to source for heifers.
At Makasa Dairy farm, we have adopted the following strategies in rearing a heifer in order to produce 25 to 30 litres of milk right at the beginning;
On weaning from six months onwards
We put the heifer on a diet of grass/hay supplemented with 2 to 3kg of dairy meal with 12 to 14 percent Crude Protein (CP). This we do at 9 to 13 months for a Friesian heifer when it come on the first heat. At this stage, we do not inseminate or breed the heifer until it weighs over 60 per cent of its mature weight; 600kg is the approximated weight for a mature Friesian cow.
Breeding (inseminating) heifer
We breed heifer at the age of 15 months when our proven feeding method will have ensured that it has attained 60 per cent of it weight (I repeat this because it is critical). For example a Friesian of mature weight of 600kg will be bread at 60 x 60/100 = 360kg. During the nine months pregnancy we feed:
- Grass, hay or Napier as much as it eat
- Three kilos of dairy meal with 12 to 14 percent Crude protein
The above feeding will ensure a growth rate of 0.7kg daily. The heifer will attain 549kg (ie 360kg + (0.7x30x9) = 189), thus calving at 80 to 85 per cent its mature weight.
Prevention of heifer disease
In Makasa Dairy Farm, we believe in disease prevention rather than curative medicine. The heifers are dipped or sprayed after every five days instead of the recommended seven days. We found ticks, the carriers of the deadly East Coast Fever (ECF) disease, will not bite the heifer if they are sprayed every five days.
We vaccinate the heifers against Foot and Mouth disease (FMD). We use quadravalent – instead of the trivalent, to combat the four strains, vaccine which effectively controls the FMD virus of this region. We also regularly deworm the heifers.
A well reared heifer will produce over 30 litres of milk daily hence boosting your milk production and income.
I will be sharing my experience in dairy farming here and how I make income and where I burn my fingers.
Chris Lati, a retired intelligence officer and taken courses in assistant veterinary, is the founder of Makasa Dairy Farm – Emali, Makueni County. His love and passion for dairy cattle is his preoccupation.